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Authors: Laurel Curtis

Tags: #Contemporary Romance

The One Girl

BOOK: The One Girl
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The One Girl

The One Series, #2

Laurel Ulen Curtis

Published by Laurel Ulen Curtis

© 2013, Laurel Ulen Curtis

Acknowledgements

A huge thanks to my mom for reading and giving me feedback during the process.

Thanks to my brother, John F. Ulen IV, for the use of his photography for the cover!

Also, thanks to all of the readers (and blogs!) who gave The One Place a chance and have moved onto The One Girl to see where the story of Tuck and Talie goes!

And of course, my biggest thanks of all, to my real life dream men, my husband and my son. Thanks for believing in me!

Prologue

I couldn’t wait to get done with all of this work and get to the diner.

I spent so many years wasting away doing nothing but working. With Jenny gone and my parents dead, I never felt like anything else was important. I would just as soon spend time working hard and letting my mind try to come up with new ways to look for Jenny.

All of that changed so swiftly, in one day, that I could hardly believe it. From the moment I saw her standing there talking to Ruth, something drew me to her. She was unbelievably fucking hot with her long auburn hair and little waist with just the right amount of tits and ass. And then when she turned toward me and I saw her face and her bright blue eyes, I was lost. But her looks weren’t even the draw. For some reason, she was like a magnet, a really fucking strong one, and I couldn’t fight the pull.

So I opened my mouth and spouted the first asshole bullshit I could come up with. If I wasn’t going to be able to resist her, she was going to need to push me away. I didn’t need to get close to some chick and start complicating life. I had enough fucking complications. My parents were fucking dead and all I had left was Jenny. I needed to put everything I had into finding her, not some new pussy. So I decided I would just be a dick to her, and she would stay away from me.

Then, she shocked the shit out of me by dishing shit right back and fucking
smiling
at me. Jesus Christ, I had been screwed. I hadn’t even had a chance after she showed me the attitude.

Thank God, I let her in- got to know her and let her know me. She was the absolute best thing to cross my doorstep in a long fucking time. Hot, so fucking hot. Kissed and fucked like a dream, and fucking Christ she could suck a good cock. But even more than that shit, she was fucking funny. So positive even though her life had dealt her so much shit. And she cared more about the people in her life than she would ever care about herself.

I couldn’t wait to see her.

********

I pulled up in front of the diner and parked my truck like always. I turned off the ignition, grabbed the keys, jumped out, and slammed the door. Rounding the hood, I stepped onto the sidewalk, crossed it, grabbed the handle on the door to the diner, and pulled it open. I always looked for her first thing when I came to see her. She never said anything but I knew she loved that I always found her eyes first.

But as soon as I walked in the door, my eyes saw something else.

Holy shit, Drew was here. Holy
shit
! Where the fuck was Winnie? Was she okay?

“Where’s Jenny?” My voice was harsh like a bark.

I belatedly realized that Talie had been rushing over to me. As soon as I took in her face, I could see something was really fucking wrong. She hadn’t looked like that since I’d called her ‘darlin’’ the day I took her around town.

Christ. She was more important, Drew could wait. I couldn’t believe I thought that, but it was fucking true.

I stepped to her and put my hands on her upper neck, softened my voice, and asked, “What’s wrong, Talie?”

She didn’t even breathe before Drew started to talk. God, he was a fucking prick.

“It would seem, Tucker, that our
darling
Natalie is reacting to the fact that, as it turns out, your Talie is very much
my
Talie. And she’s looking pretty good for a dead girl.”

Talie looked like she was gonna be sick, and I was feeling the same except with an added bonus of a lot of fucking anger. Fucking
shit.
I finally find somebody worth loving, somebody worth letting go of the past that’s been eating at me for years. And that fucking girl turns out to be the one girl who probably not only has the answers I’ve been searching for, but is a fucking part of them.

Chapter 1

Connections

My thoughts were jumbled and coming so fast that I was having a hard time keeping up. So I said the first thing that made it through my throat, and it was directed at Talie. “Did you fuckin’ know about this?”

She looked like I had struck her. Honest to God, it looked like I had just backhanded her across the face.

She shook her head almost violently and struggled to get the words out to answer me. Her voice was broken and stilted like she was fighting off sobs. “No, Tuck.
God
, no! I had...I had no idea, I swear. I’m so sorry...so so sorry.” She burst into tears and started to fucking lose it.

Christ, I was such a dick. But I just couldn’t stop myself from freaking out enough to comfort her.

“Then what in the
fuck
is goin’ on?”

Drew’s face took on a smarmy sneer. He was loving this. Me, flipping out and confused, and Talie was having a full on break down.

“Jenny left me over a year ago. Natalie is my fiance whom I’ve believed to be dead for the last couple of months or so.”

My head cleared enough to realize I couldn’t believe a thing this asshole said.

I also put a couple of other pieces of the story together.

Talie had told me people thought she was dead. She’d also told me she didn’t talk to her family and she’d done it to protect them from a monster she’d been living with. Fucking Drew. Christ, I really was an asshole. Drew had fucking raped her and I was making her stand there thinking I thought she was garbage.

That was over. Starting right now. “Enough! I know one thing that’s important right now. She ain’t your Talie. Never was and never fuckin’ will be. She’s fuckin’
mine
.”

Finally, that brought a little color back to Talie’s face. I guess I had restored at least some of her faith in me, thank God. Nonetheless, I knew this was probably going to be one complicated fucking mess.

I made another decision and surprisingly I wasn’t scared by it all. “She’s my woman,
my
Talie.” I paused to take a breath and finished, “In fact, she’s my fuckin’ fiance.”

I heard Talie gasp, along with all the other women in the place. I had to get Talie out of here. We had some shit to talk about that we should have talked about a long time ago, and I had a feeling we were going to need to make some decisions and fucking fast. With the way she had talked about him and from what I knew about him, things were about to get really fucking ugly.

I didn’t even look at Drew as I grabbed Talie’s hand and dragged her out of there. I opened the passenger door on the truck, pushed her up inside, and slammed the door. She flinched, but I couldn’t seem to get complete control of myself yet.

I rounded the hood, opened my door, jumped inside, shut the door, and started her up. I threw the gear shift into drive and took off.

We needed to get home, and we needed to talk. We needed to talk yesterday, but I let her fucking talk me out of it.

Shit! Stop. This was not her fault. She didn’t know this was gonna happen any more than I did. I wonder if he followed her here or if he just happened to come home and get a fucking surprise.

How ridiculous. She ran thinking she’d be safe since he thought she was dead. She would have been if she hadn’t come to his hometown! Didn’t she know where he was from? There were so many questions that I didn’t have the answers to. At least this time, maybe I knew someone who could answer them.

I looked up to see that, thank God, we were home. I hadn’t paid even an ounce of attention the whole way, so I was supremely thankful we had made it here safe. I looked over at Talie to see she was literally falling apart. I had to get a handle on this and soon.

I opened my door and jumped out, rounded the hood, opened her door, and pulled her into my arms. I decided I would carry her inside because she didn’t look like she was making any moves to get out of the truck on her own. I kicked the door shut and headed for the house. Going in the front door, I headed for the kitchen. I was going to put her on the couch, but this would be easier if I could stand and she could still be at eye level with me.

When I got into the kitchen, I set her down on the island, pushed her legs apart, and stepped in between them. I put my hands on her cheeks, but she started shaking her head. “I have to leave, Tuck! I have to leave!”

I held her head immobile and looked directly into her pretty blue eyes. “Babe, get it together. I know this is huge for you. It’s huge for fuckin’ both of us. But you aren’t goin’ anywhere. You are gonna stay here with me, and we are gonna fuckin’ work this out together. I am gonna protect you, Baby. He isn’t gonna hurt you. I promise.”

Tears started to wet her eyes and she whispered, “But my family, he’ll go after them.”

Fuck. Alright. “You call them. You tell them you are alive and that you’re here with me. Get them to come here. We’ll watch out for them.”

“They won’t come here! They’re gonna hate me!”

“Not possible, Babe.”

“Tuck, I cut them out! I haven’t talked to them in over a year and I let them think I was dead!”

They would forgive her. I knew I would if I were them. “They will forgive you. I would forgive you. And I would forgive Jenny.”

I could not believe she knew my sister! I shook my head as I said, “I can’t believe you know my sister.”

Her face contorted as she told me, “You said you called her Winniekins. You always referred to her as Winnie!”

Jesus, she was right. “My father called her Jenny Winniekins. I called her Winniekins or Winnie.” I shook my head when I realized what she must be thinking. “Babe, this isn’t your fault. You wouldn’t have known anyway. It was like a one in a million chance that she would be the same Jenny.”

Never would I have expected her to make such a farfetched connection. God,
I
never would have made that connection.

I pulled my shit together and got back on track. “What about Jenny? Where is she? What happened to her?”

Talie burst out crying, and I knew the answer wasn’t good. I fought the fucking boa constrictor that was trying to choke my throat. I would break down later. There were too many other important things that had to be done and had to be done now.

I choked out a very hoarse, very quiet, “Do I need to worry about her?”

She just shook her head and sobbed, “I’m so sorry, Tuck. Oh my God. I’m so so sorry.”

My mind centered on one thought. “Maybe it’s a good thing my parents aren’t alive. At least they won’t have to live with knowin’ what happened to her.”

We both sat in silence for a few seconds before Talie’s arm shot forward and grabbed the front of my shirt as she sucked in a huge gasp of air. “Holy shit, Tuck. Oh my God. Holy fucking shit. Please Jesus, no.”

Jesus. “Babe, what the fuck?”

“Shit. Tuck, when did you say your parents died?”

Jesus Christ, she wanted to do this now? “Talie, I can’t do this right now.” I was just barely hanging on as it was.

She yanked the collar of my shirt, got in my face, and yelled, “When did your parents fucking die?”

Fuck! Didn’t she know I was already about a millimeter away from completely losing my shit? What was she trying to do to me?

My voice broke as I screamed, “Like four years, two and a half months ago!”

Her faced paled and her hand twitched in my collar.

Her voice came out in barely a whisper, but I heard every fucking word. There was no way to not hear what she said.

“I think Andrew might have had something to do with it.”

Chapter 2

Something

Surprisingly, after she said those words, I took on such a calm state that I didn’t even feel like I was in my body. I think it was my version of a defense mechanism. It was my body’s way of stopping me from going to find Andrew and committing murder. Instead, if I stayed here, completely numb and immobile, Talie and I could put all of our information together and maybe come up with some answers.

The sick joke was that we’d both been lost in our thoughts for months, and, all of that time, we had been thinking about the same fucking thing.

As I worked through all of my mental ramblings, I realized something. For two people who usually took relatively little shit from people, we sure were taking a lot from one person. That was done. “Ok. The way this has gone in the past is done. We’re done takin’ shit from this guy and lettin’ him make all the decisions. We are in control now. You got me?”

She seemed hesitant to answer, and I understood why. Talie cared about people. She loved her family and now that family was even bigger- me, Ruthie, Jace, Jezzy, the whole town really. She didn’t want anything to happen to the people she loved and especially not because she made a decision based on thinking about herself instead of them. But I was determined that we could find a way to do this where we protected everybody. She was done sacrificing herself. That was a goddamn priority.

When she continued to sit there and keep her silence, I continued. “Babe. Listen to me. We are gonna bring everybody you love here to town. The town is gonna watch ‘em. Think about how they watch you and everything you do. No way Drew’s gonna be able to do somethin’ here with the whole town and his parents watchin’ him. And if for some wacked reason he thinks he can, we’ll be here to shut it down. Right?”

She breathed in a huge gulp of air, sighed, and shoved her face into my chest. I guessed that that meant yes. “Alright. Now back to the fuckin’ bomb you just dropped on me.” She squeezed my sides and I knew she was feeling bad about that, but we had to get this done. “That was a huge fuckin’ statement you just made, and I need to know why you made it.”

She nodded her head against my chest, took in a shaky breath, and lifted her head. “Okay, I’m working through my thoughts here, so bear with me okay?” I gave her one nod and she continued. “Okay, so one night I went over to Jenny’s place and walked in to hear Drew screaming at her.” She paused, looked into my eyes and asked, “Are you sure you want to know everything?”

No, I absolutely did
not
want to, but I did have to. So I told her that. “Babe. I don’t wanna know, but I gotta.”

She knew what I was saying so she continued, “Well, he was so slimy and gross and I could tell something was off about the way Jenny reacted to the altercation. Like there was more to the story, you know?”

I stood completely still and kept staring. She knew what that meant and kept talking.

“So after that night, I started investigating it on my own. I asked Jenny about it and she absolutely refused to talk about it. Told me to drop it. Told me to promise her I would leave it alone. Which I did. Promise that is. I did
not
leave it alone. I started asking her other friends. Now, Jenny didn’t have many close friends. I always found that odd for such an awesome girl, but I came to understand later.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head. It was like she was trying to clear the thoughts she was having from her head. I knew the way she worked at this point, and I knew she was probably having a flashback of some memory with Drew. It was really hard for me to connect the fun-loving, funny, attitude throwing girl of the past few months with someone who had been through so much shit, but moments like these reminded me.

She finally pulled herself back together, back to the present, and continued, “So I asked around to get some of their history.” She paused, seeming to realize that I might need some more information and continued, “I knew nothing, absolutely no background information on Jenny and Andrew.”

Well, I guess that explained her not knowing that this was where Drew was from. Jesus, talk about shitty luck, coming here.

After fighting a mental battle with myself, my thoughts switched sides.

No. Fuck that. I was glad she came here. Not only did I get to be selfish and keep her, but I could also protect her.

“They told me that Jenny and Andrew got to New York a little over five years ago and that a year later it looked like they were having problems.” She laughed without humor and then started speaking again. “Apparently, Jenny left New York one weekend all set to leave
him
, but then she was back the next weekend and acting like everything was perfect between them. I’m sure you can work out that timing for yourself.”

Was that all she was going on? I mean I totally agreed that it was probably true. The timing was way too suspicious, and my dad had seemed extra excited about something that weekend. It would make sense if that something had been Jenny. But this was hardly proof. “Babe. I get that what you’re sayin’ makes sense. I agree, ok? So don’t freak out and think I’m not agreein’ with you that that’s probably what happened. But where is the real proof?”

She winced and then murmured, “I know. But it’s really all I have to go on so far.” She paused for a few seconds and then screeched, “Oh yeah! Oh! And I remember that night everything went so wrong with her. When I showed up at her door, she told me that I should have stayed out of it. That she was trying to protect me and that I wasn’t the only one she was protecting. She also told me she didn’t have enough important people left in her life.” Her face got serious and she looked right in my eyes. “And she told me that if anything ever happened to her there was a safe deposit box in my and her name at First Trust Bank on 72nd.”

That was at least a start. “Ok. We have to see what’s in that safe deposit box then.”

We were both quiet for a minute. This was a lot to take for both of us, and I knew she had to be just on the cusp of losing it like I was. Our silence was likely a product of both of us trying to sort out our thoughts and figure out where to go from here.

“It’s Dalton, by the way.”

Alright, I had a lot going through my head, but she fucking lost me. “You lost me, Babe.”

“My real last name. I figure that’s something you should know about your fiance.” As she said this she narrowed her eyes at me.

She was giving me attitude. She was giving me attitude,
now
. Instead of thinking of the next step she had been gearing up to give me shit.

Fuck, that was why I loved her. Only Talie could throw you attitude in the middle of a conversation about the deaths of your loved ones.

Given the ridiculousness of the situation, I burst out laughing, pulled her to me, and went with it. “Only took a few more minutes than I thought it would for you to bust my balls about that.”

She smirked and murmured, “Well, it would have been sooner if we hadn’t had other things to discuss.”

She raised her eyebrow at me and I knew she wanted me to answer her questions without her having to ask them.

I raised both of my hands in a defensive stance and pled my case. “Look, now isn’t the time. I know. But he fuckin’ pissed me off sittin’ there callin’ you his fiance. You’re fuckin’ mine, and I wanted him to know it.” I took a breath, grew some balls, and then finished, “And fuck it. You are my fiance. I decided. We don’t have to get married anytime soon, since it seems we got other shit to do, but you are gonna be my wife.”

She smiled and shook her head slightly. “That’s just like you to ask me like that.”

“What are you talkin’ about?”

“You didn’t ask. You told me.” She looked like she was pondering something and then bobbed her head up and down like she was agreeing with herself. “Seems right in line with everything else in our relationship.”

I knew she was just playing with me, but my nerves were still raw from all of the recent revelations, so I didn’t guard myself when I barked at her, “Is that a fuckin’ problem?”

She started from my harsh tone, but as I tried to form my face into an apologetic expression, she recovered quickly.

Giving me a free pass for my asshole behavior this time and shaking her head as she spoke she said, “Not as long as you don’t want a wife with any domestic skills.”

It seemed ridiculous that we were acting so carefree in a moment like this, but I got it. We were both feeling this and feeling it deep. The only way to cope was to turn to each other, and
this
is how we were together.

We were trying to find comfort in something. Something that had started to allay both of our problems until this shitty morning.

I chuckled. “Don’t worry, I don’t expect this leopard to change her spots just because I marry her.”

A smirk settled on her face as she mocked, “I always thought of myself as more of a gazelle than-”

I leaned forward and sealed my lips over hers, effectively shutting her up, and moved my tongue toward her lips at the same time that her mouth opened to invite me in. It was a kiss full of passion, much like the first kiss that we had shared in the rain. Our emotions were running high and they made the kiss more frantic but delicious all the same. My hands were on her thighs and as I caressed her tongue with mine, I slid my hands higher. I was already starting to get hard, but this was definitely not the time for this so I pulled back.

“Sorry, Babe, but we got more important shit to do. Pleasurable activities will have to wait until after.”

She nodded but not without pouting her bottom lip. Man, she was cute. “Stop bein’ so cute.”

She shrugged her shoulders and gave me her most innocent face while she murmured, “It just comes naturally. I can’t turn it off.”

The best thing to do when she got like this, but you needed to get other stuff done, was just ignore her. I had learned that she could go on like this for just about forever if you played into it.

“Call your family.”

Her face immediately changed, and I could feel the nervousness coming off of her in waves. I knew she would be anxious, and that was half of the reason for her little cute routine. She was so brave, but she could definitely procrastinate. In situations like this where procrastination wasn’t an option, I would always have to push her a little bit.

“Talie. Call.”

She huffed, shoved me back, jumped off the counter, and headed for her phone, throwing an “Oh, fine!” over her shoulder as she went.

She picked up her phone, dialed it, and put it to her ear as she waited for someone to answer. I watched and waited, prepared to listen to her side of the conversation.

After a few seconds, I saw her eyes start to glisten, and I knew it had to have started the moment she heard someone’s voice come over the line.

“Kayla?” she whispered softly. She paused, took in a deep breath, closed her eyes, and continued, “It’s Natalie.”

After only a couple of seconds, her eyes flew open, and her mouth opened in shock. I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell her sister was saying that was so far off from what she had expected that her face had taken on that look.

Her silence continued for several more moments before she finally spoke again. “Um, Joplin, Tennessee.”

Two seconds later, I waited for an explanation as she pulled the phone away from her ear and put it on the counter without saying anything more.

It was looking like I was going to be waiting forever if I expected her to speak first, so I took control. “What happened?”

She started to shake her head and laugh. What the hell? God, maybe her sister had rejected her and she was finally breaking down. Jesus. “Talie, Baby, what did she-”

Her head snapped to me and she started talking. “She wasn’t even surprised that it was me. She said she just knew that there was more to the story than met the eye. She called me a stupid bitch for pretending to be dead
and
for cutting her out a year ago, and then said she was already in the midst of a plan. Our parents are in Europe where she sent them, and she’s been wanting to look into my death and Jenny’s ‘disappearance’ for a long time. She then asked me where the hell I was, and when I answered, she said she was on her way and hung up.”

A smile was tugging at the corners of my mouth as she still stood there shaking her head. “Seems like you might not be the only sister with a little sass. I think I like her. Does she have the same ass as you?”

Her eyes cut to me and I laughed out loud. “Relax, Babe. You’re still my number one girl.”

She gave me an unquestionably unkind face and hand gesture and headed to the refrigerator to get, what I knew would be, a Coke.

BOOK: The One Girl
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